Origin of burlesque

1650–60; < French < Italian burlesco, equivalent to burl(a) jest (perhaps < Spanish; cf. burladero) + -esco -esque
SYNONYMS FOR burlesque
Related formsbur·lesque·ly, adverbbur·lesqu·er, nounpre·bur·lesque, adjectiveun·bur·lesqued, adjective
Can be confusedburlesque caricature cartoon parody satire (see synonym study at the current entry)

Synonym study

1. Burlesque, caricature, parody, travesty refer to the literary or dramatic forms that imitate serious works or subjects to achieve a humorous or satiric purpose. The characteristic device of burlesque is mockery of both high and low through association with their opposites: a burlesque of high and low life. Caricature, usually associated with visual arts or with visual effects in literary works, implies exaggeration of characteristic details: The caricature emphasized his nose. Parody achieves its humor through application of the manner or technique, usually of a well-known writer, to unaccustomed subjects: a parody by Swift. Travesty implies a grotesque form of burlesque: characters so changed as to produce a travesty.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for burlesk


/ (bɜːˈlɛsk) /


an artistic work, esp literary or dramatic, satirizing a subject by caricaturing it
a ludicrous imitation or caricature
a play of the 17th–19th centuries that parodied some contemporary dramatic fashion or event
Also: burlesk US and Canadian theatre a bawdy comedy show of the late 19th and early 20th centuries: the striptease eventually became one of its chief elementsSlang name: burleycue


of, relating to, or characteristic of a burlesque

verb -lesques, -lesquing or -lesqued

to represent or imitate (a person or thing) in a ludicrous way; caricature
Derived Formsburlesquer, noun

Word Origin for burlesque

C17: from French, from Italian burlesco, from burla a jest, piece of nonsense
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for burlesk



1660s, "derisive imitation, grotesque parody," from French burlesque (16c.), from Italian burlesco, from burla "joke, fun, mockery," possibly ultimately from Late Latin burra "trifle, nonsense," literally "flock of wool." Modern sense of "variety show featuring striptease" is American English, 1870. Originally (1857) "the sketches at the end of minstrel shows." As a verb, from 1670s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper